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Terry Ericsen, Office of Naval Research, Dr. Yuri Khersonsky, Consultant,
and Peter K. Steimer, ABB Switserland Ltd.

Abstract: Demand for use of power electronics continues to • Standard PEBB designs to cover wider market base
increase, reaching many tens of MW and even greater than • advanced devices,
100 MW. The size of power electronics is a real handicap
• integrated packaging,
for serving this demand. Power Electronics Building Block
(PEBB) is a generic strategic concept incorporating several • progressive integration from device level to PEBB
technology aspects which have been foreseen as key to level,
major reduction in cost, losses, size and weight of power • snubber-less design,
electronics. The value of integration can be enhanced with • advanced converters
standardization of interfaces of the building blocks and • that provide control of reactive power,
control/protections requirements. Therefore beyond the
• can act as active filters,
concept of physical building blocks, one must look to other
aspects of integration, such as layout of building blocks, bus • minimum filter requirements,
work connecting the blocks and standardization in order to • standardized control and protection architecture
derive the maximum benefits from the integration concepts. • defined interfaces that allow "plug and play",
ONR has funded several manufacturers to develop PEBBs • advanced interactive simulation tools.
for a broad range of applications. Some of these designs are
now commercially available, some are under development. The functionality of a PEBB [1, 4] as a basic building
This paper will describe the latest PEBB based applications
and will introduce new concepts and technologies such as
block (Figure 1.), can be defined as power conversion
the Hybrid-Cascade concept for the High Fidelity Power (single phase or multiple phases) including - power
Drive which combines step-mode switching with pulse- supply for gate drives & sensors - stack or module
width modulation to minimize both switching and assembly including gate drives - voltage, current and
conduction losses as well as current harmonic distortions. temperature sensors including A/D conversion of sensor
signals - switching control incl. pulse generation for gate
drive - communication with control and - primary
I. THE PEBB CONCEPT protection.
Modular and hierarchical design principles are the corner System control
stones of the Power Electronics Building Block concept.
Application control
Application Ctrl. 1ms..1s..
There are basic reasons to believe the cost of power - overriding control & measurements

electronics could be reduced significantly by the use of Converter Control

building block approach and that this would result in a PLL, αβ ↔ dq Transformations - PLL synchronization
id / iq current control - αβ ↔ dq Transformations
substantial increase in the market for power electronics - id- and iq current control 10μs..1ms
in industrial, utility, transportation and other areas.
PEBB Control
The idea of open plug-and-play architecture is to build - Modulator
& diagnostics

Converter - Converter switching logic

power systems in much the same way as personal switching logic - 2nd level protection
2nd level
computers. The system knows the PEBB capabilities, its protection
manufacturer, and its operational requirements.
A/D & D/A 6 A/D & D/A
PEBB(s) 0.1..1μs
- Stack or module assembly
The overall control architecture must have the inherent Gate drives - Snubbers for safe commutation
& protection - Gate drives & feedbacks
capability to support the integration of these PEBBs, - 1st level device protection
VDC1 T FB 1..6 IA/B/C - A/D & D/A conversion
regardless of how they are configured together. VA/B/C - Gate drive power supply
V - Current and voltage sensors
- AC/DC power terminals
Each PEBB maintains its own safe operating limits. It - Thermal management

may be that in the long run PEBBs would be plugged


into power electronics systems and operational settings


The key technology aspects in the next generations of Figure 1. – PEBB concept for Power Electronics
power electronics are to provide economic and
performance rich solutions are: The interfaces of a PEBB defined as follows:
- Auxiliary power interface - Control interface - Cooling
interface and - Power interface.

0-7803-9033-4/05/$20.00 ©2005 IEEE. 2284

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ONR has funded several manufacturers to develop

PEBBs power conversion modules for a broad range of
applications. Some of these designs are now
commercially available form different sources. ABB’s
PEBB power conversion modules are shown bellow. A
very compact PEBB, called PowerPak3, is based on the
new 1200V/1700V LoPak5 power semiconductors
(Figure 2), which is a six-pack topology, which also can
be used in a dual switch configuration.

Figure 4. 9 MVA PowerStack (IGCT PEBB)

Based on the highly competitive IGCT technology [2], a

very compact PEBB, called PowerStack (Figure 4.) and
serving multiple medium-voltage applications, has been
Figure 2. LoPak 5 baseless IGBT module
The maximum output power of the water-cooled
PowerStack in a 3-phase configuration is in the range of
The maximum output power of the water-cooled 9 MVA at a system voltage of 3300 VAC.
PowerPak3 (Figure. 3.), equipped with 3 LoPak5
modules, is in the range of approximately 600 kVA. The 9 MVA PowerStack is a highly compact, highly
reliable and efficient medium voltage design, which
defines the basic metrics for any competitive solution in
this field.


The power electronics controller is the other key

functional component for Power Electronics Building
Blocks (PEBBs).
When the control functions of many different power
electronic systems are evaluated, a significant number of
common functions are discovered, irrespective of the
target application. Using a concept of system layers, it is
possible to develop hierarchical control architecture in
terms of required response time for the PEBB based

Commercially available Digital Signal Processor (DSP)

or Microprocessors used at each layer and standard
communication protocols used for information flow
between the layers. The overall control architecture has
the inherent capability to support the integration of
multiple PEBBs, regardless of how they are configured.
In that respect the control interface [3] between the
power electronics controller and the different PEBBs is
Figure 3. – PowerPak3 (IGBT PEBB) clearly defined, but without jeopardizing the needed


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All the measurements and A/D conversions of any IV. THE PLATFORM-BASED APPROACH TO
voltage, currents and temperature signals can be placed POWER ELECTRONICS
in the PEBBs or in other power building blocks, like
filters, the control interface of the PEBB and any power Many industries have adapted successfully a platform-
filters can be of digital type. The amounts and the based approach for their products. The power of the
requirements of the speed in acquisition allow this platform-based approach can be deployed, if basic
interface implementation by serial links. building blocks are consistent with one another. It
successfully reduced the complexity in the design
Based on these basic considerations, ABB designed a process and enabled effective partnerships on subsystem
powerful power electronics controller, called PEC800, level due to clearly defined or even standardized
which employs a flexible, but standardized interface to functional interfaces. Regarding the power electronics
the power building blocks through serial links over fiber- part, the Power Electronics Building Block (PEBB) is
optic media (Figure 5). one of these key functional components, which enables a
platform-based approach in power electronics. It is
important to keep this approach stable over a wide range
of applications.

No real distinction needs to be made between a mature

application, where we have a lot of application
knowledge, and an emerging application, where the
application knowledge may be still limited due to
missing experience. But the platform approach serves to
reduce the costs in mature applications due to the
achieved standardization requested by this approach, and
in emerging applications with the development costs
under tighter control, as the R&D can focus on the
“missing” application knowledge by using already
developed building blocks in the power conversion and
control area, rather than developing everything from
scratch for every new application.

Figure 5. Power Electronics Controller

Example: ABB PEBB-Based Drives Power Switching


Senses Senses what
what they is plugged
are plugged into them...
Inverter Unit into...
Rectifier filter
Unit Line EXU
INU Supply
Unit Controls
ACS6000 for power,
Base cooling &
Module Power control
Stack(s) connections
Bank Unit Water
Unit Control
> ACS 6000AD

6 pulse 12 or 18 pulse


Multi M M M M
Figure 6. PEBB based Medium Voltage Drives


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V. PHYSICS BASED DESIGN way, new converters could be simulated with an entire
system emulated in a HSRT simulation.
Physics based relationships are essential for the design of
power electronics building blocks, unlike in signal A process of incremental prototyping can be developed
electronics applications where a functional definition that proceeds by calculating a minimum significant HIL
may be sufficient. Today, modelling and simulation is experiment for a given design problem. Based on the
mostly used as an analysis tool. However, systems with results obtained, a new HIL experiment would be
many power electronic components are emerging – configured for the next minimum significant hardware
driven by the need for power quality, availability, validation. The process continues until an acceptable
security, and efficiency. The complexity of these level of confidence is obtained from the incremental
systems exceeds the capability of today’s rule based prototyping steps performed. In the case of completely
design methods. Tomorrow’s systems will require a new systems, these steps can be used to build one-of-a-
relational and rational design process using modelling kind prototypes that can be validated based on physics in
and simulation. The model becomes the specification. a process where the building steps are quantified and
confidence is established prior to each prototyping step.


Customer Designer Figure 8 illustrates the three-stage cascaded inverter

topology with hybrid switching operation. All three
inverter stages require isolated DC power supplies,
which are a combination of high frequency and low
Products Performance, Life, & Requirements frequency isolation transformers and power converters.
Figure 9 explains how the cascade inverters synthesize
the output waveform through a combination of step-wave
Supplier Designer modulation and PWM.

Figure 7. The Design Cycle The low switching frequency in the two quasi-square
wave inverters results in total switching losses that are
Today’s power electronic systems require a completed much lower than in the conventional PWM switching
and commissioned system to validate the design. Paper unit and the heat dissipation requirement is much less
documents cannot address the complexity of the next and PWM disturbance (harmonics) is reduced in the AC
generation power electronic systems. output.

A key part of physics based design is validation and Since the bulk of the power is processed by high density
incremental prototyping. New power electronic concepts IGCTs, the quantity of individual devices is minimized.
such as Power Electronic Building Blocks (PEBB)
enable designers to avoid re-commissioning elements For the cascaded topology, the line current magnitudes
that have been proven in previous designs. are the same for all stages. Thus the voltage ratio
between stages determines the ratio of power distribution
A new design of power electronics that uses the same between inverter stages.
PEBB elements as a previous design need only validate
the new application stresses and design elements. Since the base stage inverter operates in step wave mode
and is operated at relatively low frequency, high power
A physics based design process can provide confidence rating IGCT or GTO switches can be used in the base
levels and quantified risk to any degree of certainty. stage inverter.
However, there is still a great cost to build and test the
new elements and to characterize the system under new To construct sinusoidal voltage waveform from the
application stresses. If most of the elements in a system cascaded inverters, output voltage from the inverter of
are new, as in a new class of electric ship, the cost of one level must fill up the output voltage waveform
validation can be enormous. “hum” from the inverter of the other levels. Thus voltage
ratios between the stages are constrained.
Real time simulation is fundamentally capable of running
with real hardware as Hardware-In-the-Loop (HIL) By choosing the proper voltage ratio, the bottom base
simulation. HSRT simulation enables parts of a inverter shares a higher percentage of load power than
converter (switches, phase-legs, and bridges) to be run the PWM inverters. For example on Figure 9, to drive a
with the rest of the converter in a HSRT simulation. So, 4,160 VAC motor, the bottom cascade is a 2400-volt
the whole converter does not need to be built to validate stage, the middle is 800 VDC and the top PWM stage
the design – only the elements that are new. In the same operates at about 400 volts DC.


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M otor

U a+ U b+ U c+

U pper S tage
U a- U b- U c-

M a+ M b+ M c+

M id S tage
M a- M b- M c-


B ase S tage


Figure 8. Cascaded Hybrid Topology

P h ase (L -N ) V o ltag e

40 00
30 00
T arg et w a ve fo rm
20 00
10 00 B as e s ta c k
ou tp ut

M id s ta c k ou tp ut
-10 00 1 21Figure
4 1 6 Hybrid
6 1 8 1Waveform
10 1 12 1Syntheses

-20 00 R e q'd P W M
s ta c k ou tp ut
-30 00
-40 00
Tim e , An g le

Figure 9. Hybrid Waveform Syntheses


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The advantage of this system is that the 2400-volt CONCLUSIONS
section, which handles the most energy, operates at the
base frequency and has low switching loss per cycle. The key enabling capabilities of PEBB concept are:
The middle 800-volt section operates at 3 times base • Technology insertion and upgrade via standard
frequency and the upper 400-volt PWM section operates interfaces
at approximately 25 times the base frequency. The low • Reduced maintenance via plug and play
voltage IGBT’s components for this stages usually have modules
the lowest switching losses. • Reduced cost via increased product
development efficiency
All harmonics, through up to the 13th, minimized by the • Reduced time to market
PWM switching algorithm. A small low pass Inductor- • Reduced commissioning cost
Capacitor filter controls higher harmonics caused by the • Reduced design and development risk
PWM switching. The peak PWM voltage is a maximum
• Increased competition in critical technologies
of 400 Volts.
By using Hybrid-Cascade topology, 80% of switching
The target AC voltage waveform from each single-phase and 50% of conduction losses in power semiconductors
inverter is matching the back EMF of the motor, thereby
could be eliminated.
increasing the torque and operation stability.
High electrical efficiency and input and output power
quality during all operational modes allows 15 to 20%
The topology applies equally effectively to induction or
weight reduction of generators and propulsion motors.
synchronous motors with field excitation or permanent
magnets. It is scalable across a wide power & voltage ACKNOWLEDGMENT
range, and number of motor phases.
The authors gratefully acknowledge the contributions of
V. DESIGN ENHANCEMENTS Nari Hingorani on the formalizing the PEBB concept and
Dushan Boroyevich on the Universal controller initiative
Propulsion motor power consumption is proportional to
and its technical investigations.
the cube of the propulsion speed. In view of approximate
80% of the time motor operating at low speed, efficiency
at light load (corresponding to the motor operating at low
speed) is inherently low. [1] T. Ericsen, “Power Electronics Building Blocks”,
The Electric Warship Conference, IME/IEE/SEE,
To improve efficiency at partial load, the following
London, 1997
enhancements in the Motor Drive design are under
[2] P. Steimer, H.E. Gruning, J. Werninger,
E. Carroll, S. Klaka, and S. Linder,
“IGCT – A new emerging technology for high
- Use of Vacuum contactors to bypass idle
power low cost inverters,” Conference Record,
inverter stacks therefore eliminating
IEEE-IAS Annual Meeting, 1997, pp. 1592–1599.
semiconductors conduction losses. [3] D. Boroyevich, I. Celanovic, I. Milosavljevic,
- Utilize 3rd harmonics reference injection to
R. Cooley, J. Guo, “A new distributed digital controller
control sign of active to prevent exchange of
for the next generation of power electronics building
active power in the PWM stages [6], [7]. blocks”, Applied Power Electronics Conference and
- Employ soft switching in the isolated DC
Exposition APEC 2000
[4] “Power Electronics Building Block (PEBB)
- Insertion of high frequency isolation Concepts”, IEEE publication 04TP170 prepared by the
transformers between the rectifier and the
Task Force 2 of the working Group i8, 2004
inverter to minimize weight of magnetic
[5] Yuri Khersonsky, Robert Lee and Chi Mak “High
components. Efficiency Quiet Electric Drive”, Second IEE
- Replacement of single large size input
International Conference on Power Electronics,
transformer with individual transformers for
Machines and Drives at University of Edinburgh, UK
each stack. The smaller size transformers are (March 31 – April 2, 2004).
beneficial to the shipboard design for the ease of
[6] M. D .Manjrekar, P. K. Steimer, and T .A. Lipo,
installation and maintenance.
“Hybrid multilevel power conversion system: A
competitive solution for high–power applications,” IEEE
To reduce the variety of power semiconductors and its
Trans. Ind. Applicat., vol. IA–36, pp. 834–841, May/June
control boards, it is also under consideration to make the
middle and top section exactly the same as 400-volt
[7] P. K. Steimer and M .D. Manjrekar “Practical
PWM sections. With both sections phase-shifted and
Medium Voltage Converter Topologies for High Power
operated at the much lower PWM switching frequency, Applications,” Conference Record, IEEE-IAS Annual
increase in power losses will be negligent.
Meeting, Oct. 2001.


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